With sandy beaches in one direction and Dartmoor in the other, Exeter is attracting buyers who appreciate its safe city centre, good schools and Georgian houses, finds Arabella Youens.
‘Buyers at the top end of the market are getting younger as Exeter is becoming more fashionable, sociable and lively,’ believes Simon Scott-Nelson of Winkworth. ‘There also tends to be a large number of young couples looking to start a family,’ he adds.
Although prices at this end of the market were impacted by the recession, in the past seven months, confidence has picked up, with properties selling for in excess of the asking price, reports Edward Tallack of Jackson-Stops & Staff: ‘Once the uncertainty generated by the EU referendum clears, I believe even more confidence will return to the market.’
Mark Proctor of Knight Frank adds that they are increasingly finding buyers coming from beyond the local area—particularly London, the Home Counties and the Midlands. ‘The market is now more dynamic than it used to be, with a real cross-section of buyers moving to Exeter, not only for the lifestyle, but also for all the economic opportunities that the area provides,’ he says. With Exeter University’s aggressive growth plans, the demand for student housing is robust and growing, adds James Baker of Strutt & Parker: ‘The yields on a good Victorian house with five or six bedrooms in one of the popular student areas are strong.’
All the streets that run off the bottom half of Pennsylvania Road, as well as those that run parallel to it (Victoria Street, Culverland Road and Springfield Road), are good buy-to-let roads for students.
The most sought-after addresses at the top end of the market are in St Leonards, agree all agents. James recommends looking in Lyndhurst Road, St Leonard’s Road and Victoria Park Road for ‘what everyone wants: Georgian houses with sash windows in wide, tree-lined streets’.
Edward adds that Topsham, a suburb of the city, and Pennsylvania are also attractive—the latter’s hilly position offers views towards the sea. ‘Topsham is notable for its lovely Tudor cottages and bustling feel, created in part by a range of pubs—its location on the Exe estuary also makes it extremely desirable. Pennsylvania is home to spacious Victorian and Edwardian houses; due to its proximity to the university, it’s popular with academics and students alike.’
In the independent sector, both Exeter School and The Maynard School take children from primary school age right through to A-Levels and ‘both boast excellent exam results’, says Simon. ‘Although at primary level, in a very highscoring county, Topsham sits high in the league tables,’ he adds. For boarding, there’s Blundells School in nearby Tiverton.
Butcher, baker, coffee-maker
One of the most charming streets in the city is Gandy Street, which, according to local lore, was the inspiration for Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley (J. K. Rowling being one of the university’s alumni).
However, for the best selection of independent outlets, head to Magdalen Road in St Leonards, which has been likened to Hampstead High Street in nature. Following the closure of the greengrocer, the Magdalen Road Bakery opened last year (an extension of Lyme Regis’s The Town Mill Bakery and other West Country outfits) and acts as a bakery and cafe.
There is also the fishmonger Gibsons Plaice, a deli, Pipers Farm butcher and various cafes. Closer to the centre, Tea on the Green and Coffee No 1 come recommended. Both the Rusty Bike and the Fat Pig pubs, which are owned by a local farmer and make use of his organic produce, are among the best in the city. Alternatively, head to the Quay for cafes and restaurants on the waterfront.
Exeter is a long way from the West End, so theatre is limited to visiting productions to the university’s Northcott theatre and whatever is happening at the university itself. Art-house films are shown at the Picture House and Radio 1’s Big Weekend kicks off this Saturday (May 28) at Powderham Castle.
Need to know
Exeter’s new £12 million Guildhall development, Queen St Dining, is due to open in August. With at least eight new restaurants opening their doors in the redesigned spaces, it’s anticipated to create a young and vibrant hub in the centre of the city. ‘There’s also talk of a high-speed rail link through to London Paddington and rumours that a number of major corporations within the tech industry are looking to relocate headquarters to Exeter,’ adds Mark
Family house for sale £650,000
This four-bedroom, four-bathroom property is part of a Grade II-listed manor house in Alphington, just three miles from the city centre. It has a south-facing garden with a lawn, established trees and a grotto seating area. Strutt & Parker (01392 215631)
Large townhouse for sale £995,000
Acland House in Victoria Park Road, St Leonards, needs some internal reconfiguring to return it to a large, six-bedroom family home. It has a spacious, west-facing garden and parking for two cars. Knight Frank (01392 241696)
Family house close to the train station £550,000
Grade II-listed Armada House has five bedrooms and is close to both train stations. It has been renovated with a good kitchen/ breakfast room and an openplan living and dining room. There is a walled garden to the rear. Winkworth (01392 271177)